Europe’s War on Refugees

Since the war on Gaza began, over 100,000 Palestinians have fled to neighbouring Egypt, often through controversial travel agencies, only to find themselves stranded. They cannot return to Gaza, and moving forward into a new life is also often impossible. Few have the necessary documents or funds to rent a home, open a bank account, pay medical bills, or send their children to school.

The UNRWA lacks a mandate to assist Palestinian refugees in Egypt, leaving these individuals unregistered. Without legal status, they exist in a legal gray zone, tolerated yet often invisible among Cairo’s 23 million residents.

UNRWA estimates that between October and December 2023, up to 1.7 million people, or over 75% of the Gaza Strip’s population, were displaced by the war, many forced to flee multiple times. 

This crisis is not isolated.

New and ongoing conflicts have caused forced displacement worldwide. The conflict in Sudan, which began in April 2023, has created one of the largest humanitarian crises globally, displacing over 6 million people within the country and causing 1.2 million to flee to neighbouring countries. In Myanmar, escalating violence following the military takeover in February 2021 displaced more than 1.3 million people in 2023.

One in every 69 people, or 1.5% of the global population, is now forcibly displaced. This is nearly double the 1 in 125 people who were displaced a decade ago. At the end of 2023, an estimated 117.3 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, and events seriously disturbing public order. Compared to a decade ago, the total number of refugees has more than tripled.


What is the EU Doing?

The EU invests billions in establishing African states as new border guards, even supporting dictatorships that, in return, seal their borders. The EU’s deals are clear: development aid in exchange for halting refugees. 

The first such agreement was with Turkey in 2016. In July 2023, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni travelled to Tunis to initiate a similar agreement with Tunisia.

In early May 2024, the EU finalised a refugee agreement with Lebanon, promising one billion euros by 2027 to prevent refugees from leaving Lebanon for Europe. 

In March 2024, a controversial migration agreement with Egypt followed.

The new EU asylum system, decided in 2023, includes a mechanism allowing states to further restrict asylum rights in cases where refugees are “instrumentalised” by hostile neighbouring states or other organisations. This includes the internment of all arrivals for expedited procedures. The arms industry has recognised the security implications of refugee arrivals and is increasingly militarising border protection as a growing business sector. In April this year, the European Investment Bank unveiled a multi-billion euro action plan under the Strategic European Security Initiative (SESI).

The EU’s strategy is built on human rights violations, with the arms industry raking in profits and coming out on top. 


The next level of contempt for humanity is seen in the reform of the Common European Asylum System (GEAS), which centralises internment camps at Europe’s external borders. Asylum seekers, including families with children, will remain interned during centralised procedures. This is an assault on universal human rights.


No one is illegal. 

The causes of flight are diverse but almost always linked to global inequality between the rich and poor. This inequality is exacerbated by exploitation in unfair trade relations, the rise of large agribusinesses, ruthless multinational corporations, and climate change primarily driven by industrialized countries.

This year, World Refugee Day emphasises solidarity with refugees for a world where refugees are welcomed. 

However, solidarity is just a buzzword unless our system is truly shaped by it. We need politicians who actually believe in and fight for equality, the right of every person to live with dignity, and the principle that private profits should never outweigh the common good. Only then can we create a system that genuinely upholds human rights and justice for all.


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